How One Piece’s 1,015th episode renewed my faith in anime

Today I want to try something a little bit new, and that is to talk about a single episode of One Piece: episode 1,015.

It’s fair to say that my relationship with anime has changed a lot over the last few years, and I’m always hoping that something will come around and reignite that flame of undying passion in me again. But with the way anime is nowadays, I can’t see that happening. There are simply too many series each season, and it just seems to get worse each season. It’s become impossible to keep up — and on top of all that, everything just feels so samey.

But One Piece episode 1,015 reminded me why I still love anime. Let’s get into why this episode was so special, and why a certain young director by the name of Megumi Ishitani has created one of the most stunning and incredible episodes of not only One Piece, but anime. 

One Piece

The One Piece anime and the arrival of Megumi Ishitani

I haven’t properly watched the One Piece anime consistently since the series reached the time skip, somewhere around 2012-2013. At this point, I had been caught up in the manga for a while and I was just watching the anime each week because back then I watched everything and I was still high on my love for the series. I would be lying if I said that the drop in quality for the One Piece anime didn’t contribute to my decision to stop watching, but the post-time-skip stuff definitely felt a bit flat compared to the arcs that came before. 

Still, I was a weekly manga reader and have been for over a decade by this point, so I was very aware of when the anime was approaching certain milestones in the series. As such I would always make sure to check out those big moments in anime form as well, which is something I really enjoy taking part in. As the series reached its current arc, Wano Country, I couldn’t wait to see some of the big moments in their anime form, especially considering this arc brought on a significant upgrade to the animation quality of the series. 

Eventually, we reached episode 957 titled “Big News! An incident that will affect the Seven Warlords!”. As soon as I saw the title I knew which chapter the content was from and I knew this was going to be a big episode — the kind that gets everyone on Twitter talking. What I did not know that how incredible this episode was going to be done, and this was where One Piece first came together with Megumi Ishitani. 

This episode features a handful of very powerful and important characters in the world of One Piece and the worldwide changes that directly affect them. As viewers may not have seen these characters for quite some time, the norm is to use old footage for flashbacks.

Megumi Ishitani instead chose to create completely new scenes to display everything transpiring around these characters in such a flashy and captivating way that this episode was suddenly even bigger and more widely talked about than I thought it was going to be. 

In addition to this, she has an incredible sense of creativity. She takes what could be seen as a fairly unimportant couple of panels on a manga page, and transforms them into something entirely unique that still feels very One Piece, and which ultimately elevates the source material. This is also an amazing way at padding out the episode’s runtime in a way that is entertaining, as opposed to using excessive flashbacks, filler or pauses.

Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece, is something of a workaholic — the man used to sleep three hours a night on average — and has started taking a week off every month as a means of staving off health problems from these habits. As a result of this the anime, which airs a new episode every week, slowly but surely catches up to the source material. As such, Ishitani’s methods of unobtrusive padding are probably appreciated by everyone working on the series, not just the viewers. 

One Piece

Episode 1,015

We’ve learned about just how incredible Ishitani’s work on One Piece is, so learning that she was going to be directing episode 1,015 was enough of a reason for people to get hyped. However, there are numerous other reasons as to why this episode was something special — an episode that was going to have not only the anime viewers talking, but which would also bring back many of the manga readers, too.

One Piece is hailed as one of the best series when it comes to world-building, and the upcoming battle with Kaido, one of the “Four Emperors of the Sea”, has been a fight that has been built up for quite literally years. The past arcs gave us dribs and drabs of information over time, and slowly we learned more and more about one of the most threatening pirates our crew may ever face. We come to find out how people consider him the most powerful pirate alive, how he has amassed an army of hundreds of Zoan-type Devil Fruit users, and how he managed to enslave the entire country of Wano. 

Now finally, here we are — “Roof Piece”, as it has been dubbed. Not only was this the beginning of this monumental clash, but it was the anime adaptation of the 1,000th chapter of the One Piece manga. Ishitani went above, beyond, and even further than fans could have ever expected with this episode and I am not exaggerating one bit when I say this episode felt movie quality. 

The beginning scenes show us the parallels between Luffy and Gol D. Roger, who seem to have similar goals. The worst generation of pirates arrive atop of the roof of Kaido’s castle on Onigashima. Luffy enters, and he apologises for being late as he stone-cold walks up to his defeated allies. The whole scene made use of some of the most incredible lighting, which made what was happening on-screen hit so much harder.

As the clash between Luffy and Kaido begins, Ishitani displays the flow of “Ryou” throughout Luffy’s body, followed by rapid flashbacks to all of the scenes that have led us to where we are now. To make these scenes all the more powerful, they’re all viewed through Luffy’s eyes. And finally, it all culminates in a scene that will surely go down as one of the greatest punches in anime history: Gomu Gomu no Red Roc, backed by an instrumental version of the original opening theme to One Piece, We Are!

I don’t know what else I can say about this episode, but it made me feel things about the One Piece anime that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. The entire staff list deserves all the praise in the world, but it couldn’t have been done without the incredible work of Megumi Ishitani.

I feel so privileged to have a person working on a series I adore who just seems to understand the source material almost as well as the author. Her creative vision has accelerated the anime beyond the source material, and does it really get any better than that? 

Watch One Piece — there is genuinely no other series quite like it.

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Conor Evans
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